Titchmarsh: PM wrong to scorn gardening skills

Cameron criticised for comparing horticulture to purely manual labour

Britain's best-known gardener, Alan Titchmarsh, has criticised David Cameron for comparing gardening with unskilled activities such as litter-picking.

Titchmarsh, the vice-president of the Royal Horticultural Society who began his career in horticulture as a 15-year-old apprentice at a nursery, said it was "not particularly useful" for the Prime Minister to suggest it was not a valued or skilled job.

The television presenter made the comments ahead of National Gardening Week, which begins on 16 April, as he called for more apprenticeships in horticulture paying a "decent wage".

"We need to encourage young people to make horticulture their career," Titchmarsh writes in this month's issue of the RHS magazine, The Garden. "How? By considering that it is a career."

He adds: "In a 2011 speech about the coalition government's plans to allocate community work to the long-term unemployed, David Cameron grouped gardening as an unskilled activity along with litter-picking. Not a particularly useful statement, is it?

"And that's the problem – many perceive gardening as 'tidying up'. The sort of thing that you do to your sock drawer once a year. But, as many of us know, it is so much more than that.

"The Prime Minister, and others, should consider just what part gardening can play in society. It impacts on those political hot potatoes, law and order, education and health."

His criticism is all the more pointed because Mr Cameron has in the past declared that he is a keen gardener and still grows his own vegetables at his constituency home in Oxfordshire. The Camerons also have a vegetable patch in the Downing Street garden, although this is tended by a staff gardener. In 2009, as part of the publication of MPs' expenses, it was revealed that Mr Cameron claimed £680 from the taxpayer for clearing wisteria from his chimney at his constituency home. He later repaid the bill.

Last year, Mr Cameron unveiled the Government's Welfare Reform Bill, which, at the time, included plans to force the long-term unemployed to do unpaid work placements involving manual labour, including litter-picking and gardening, or face cuts to their benefits. The work-placement plans sparked controversy earlier this year, forcing ministers to admit that they would be voluntary and focus on more skilled work.

However, in his article, Titchmarsh says it remains a concern that the Government is not putting enough emphasis on promoting horticulture apprenticeships to school-leavers.

Titchmarsh, who left school at 15 with a single O-level in art, says he hopes that the raising of university tuition fees could have a "beneficial side-effect" by forcing teenagers to realise that having a degree is not the "be-all and end-all in life".

He says: "Learning how things grow, from an early age... gives children a greater understanding of the wider environment, and a greater responsibility for it. They will grow up with some affinity with the countryside, rather than living a life glued to mobile phones and computers."

Despite the popularity of gardening in the UK, there is a declining interest in studying botany at university, with the final single-degree course in the subject closing next year. Industry insiders have blamed this state of affairs on the poor teaching of plant biology at school.

An individual studying for a horticulture apprenticeship can, once qualified, expect to start their career with a salary between £11,000 and £15,000.

As part of National Gardening Week, Titchmarsh is spearheading a campaign for more people to go into gardening with a series of talks and workshops on "Horticulture, a Career to Be Proud Of."

Downing Street last night declined to comment, but a No 10 source said: "The PM does still grow vegetables at his constituency home, which the kids enjoy doing with him."

Ready, steady, garden: Growing trends for 2012

This weekend is the busiest of the year for garden centres as Britons get planting and weeding for the summer ahead. With that in mind, The IoS has put together a guide to 2012's top gardening trends.

Wild flowers

Native plants are hardy and useful when you can't hose them down morning and night. They also attract bees and butterflies, whose populations need helping.

Starting from scratch

While quick-fix potted plants and seedlings have been popular for saving time and transferring straight into flower beds, there is a renewed fashion for starting from basics – seeds and bulbs. It saves money and is more environmentally friendly.

Vertical gardening

With restricted budgets, what better way to save money than growing vegetables on your roof? Urban gardening is on the up, with people finding more and more unusual places to plant in the city.

Topiary

Get out your shears: creative hedges are in vogue and the weirder the shape the better. They can give your garden a controlled look without harming the environment.

Nostalgia vegetables

Victorian favourites are making a comeback in cookery books: join the Heritage Seed Library to get some unusual varieties for your allotment.

Power your garden the green way

If your garden is shady, wind- and solar-powered lights are making it cheaper and greener to dispel the gloom. You can even get solar-powered irrigation that links up to your water butt and put an end to lugging a watering can around.

Grow your own wine

Well, grapes, anyway. Making your own wine from home-grown grapes is increasingly popular in gardens large enough to accommodate sizable vines.

And ... the big eco no-nos

Sprinkling the grass – there's a drought on; peat – other composts are just as good and don't involve destroying wild habitats; pesticides – anything that kills insects or plant life has the potential to cause wider damage to the environment.

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
Review: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit